Case Studies

Posted: 15 September 2020

Freeing public domain information

  • Programme:

    Advancing open access

  • Focus area:

    Intellectual property rights

  • Grantee:


  • Project:

    Core costs

  • Grants awarded:


  • Years:


Public.Resource.Org (PRO) is a non-profit dedicated to publishing and sharing public domain materials in the United States and internationally. It was founded by Carl Malamud and is based in California. The premise of its work is that information in the public domain, particularly government-generated information, ought to be as easy as possible for the public to access. PRO exposes cases where governments have provided information, that ought to be public, to private companies who charge fees for access to the information. After identifying relevant cases, PRO acquires the information and publishes it for free online itself.

Codes and standards are ready for dispatching at the Public.Resource.Org offices. Courtesy of Public.Resource.Org.

One of PRO’s more high-profile achievements is it’s work with the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA), which is the official law of the State of Georgia. PRO fought through a series of court cases and appeals, eventually ending-up in the US Supreme Court, to establish that the OCGA is public domain and so cannot be copyrighted. This mean that anyone can freely publish the law online without fear of infringing copyright. Detractors in the case accused PRO of ‘terrorism’ in its efforts to ensure that public information is accessible, but the court agreed with the actions of PRO.

Thanks to PRO’s work, many standards documents are now freely available online, including the Public Safety Standards of the Republic of India, California Building Codes, and select American and European toy safety standards.

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